My Perspective on Anderson’s Perspective of Paul’s Perspective
Even if one does not buy in to Anderson’s development argument, there is much here to appreciate. First, the survey of the TPP/NPP debate is a highly valuable and level-headed appreciation of both perspectives. Much like Michael Bird, Anderson finds much to receive from both. Second, the Anderson offers unique arguments in defense for the disputed Pauline letters that are not simply apologetic in value, but also add to a greater understanding of the letters in question.
Though Anderson’s argument requires both a summary of the debate and a defense of Pauline itinerary and collection, this resulted in the book running over 200 pages before his own solution was presented. Frankly, I was fatigued by the time I made it to the heart of the book. This is not to imply that the material in chapters 1-5 are nonessential. Far from it; it is all highly valuable. It’s simply a lot of material to cover before one comes to the heart of the book’s most unique contribution.
Anderson’s prose is strikingly eloquent and personable. I found the book highly readable and enjoyably so. However, occasionally Anderson would skirt around a topic for several sentences before it became clear what he was saying. Also, at times I found him unnecessarily verbose in an already long book.
I wonder if it’s a mistake to surmise Romans as the moment when Paul’s theology reaches a shift, when it also happens to also be the longest letter. Could not what Anderson perceives as signs of development simply be the natural byproduct of a higher word count? I certainly seem more elaborate and thoughtful in a blog post than a tweet; at least I hope so! Also, I wonder if we have too little Pauline data from which to construct notions of development. Is Anderson’s development thesis a Procrustean bed?
However, Anderson’s thesis is compelling. It has much explanatory power if it is correct, so I anticipate thoroughly re-reading Paul’s letters through this lens to ensure it works. Anderson has also opened the door for potentially fruitful study of development in other Pauline doctrines such as Christology.
Paul’s New Perspective is recommended as an excellent introduction to and analysis of the TPP/NPP debate. Not only does Garwood Anderson know the issues well and is able to discern the wheat from the chaff in both perspectives, he also a unique perspective that deserves close attention and serious consideration. I eagerly await more critical reviews of his work. Paul’s New Perspective is the fruit of wide reading and deep thought. Time will tell how persuasive his mediating development position is, but it could very well resolve much tension in the TPP/NPP debate.
Many thanks to IVP for providing a review copy.